Rush, Ruin, and Spirit Led Seasons

Yesterday afternoon, I popped my ear buds in and went for a walk since the snow escaped us here. While walking, I was listening to Annie F. Down’s podcast “That Sounds Fun” where she was interviewing contemporary christian music artist Tauren Wells. Tauren sings the song “Hills and Valleys.” It was a good thing I had my phone along so I could take notes because Tauren was PREACHING y’all!!!

One of the first quotes I wrote down from Tauren was this: “Faith is obedience in reverse.” Now think about that for a moment. He is so spot on. Faith is often defined as trust. But we cannot trust if we are not obedient to who God is. A year ago, it was really hard to trust God in the midst of living in liminal space. Yet because I was able to be obedient to God, faith followed me and held me in the midst of my fears and doubts.

In the midst of our own fears and doubts, it can be so easy to rush from one thing to the next; trying to grasp for where God might be leading us along this journey. “Rush always leads to ruin.” (Tauren Wells) But when we rush, things get lost and left behind. If I rush through my day without even thinking about what I am doing, I might not get the job done as completely as if I take my time. We must be patient and watch and listen to where God might be leading us along life’s journey.

As we watch and listen, we are led to “Spirit led seasons.” I don’t know about you, friends, but I have definitely sat in the midst of those Spirit led seasons. The Spirit blowing one way while I was searching and waiting it for it to blow another direction. Those Spirit led seasons have taught me much about obedience and what it means to trust in our God who promises to never leave us or forsake us. This God who holds us most especially during those Spirit led seasons! It is here that we come to feel and grasp what it means to have faith in the one who loves us so very much that he sent his one and only son into the world for each and every one of us.

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup and Jennifer and Tell His Story.

 

  

Sunday Blessings 210

(1) Awesome Confirmation night.

(2) A hug from one of my faves telling me how awesome I did at worship

(3) First Communion take two!

(4) Fun LLR mail

(5) Getting to see all my faves!!

(6) Youth for Christ banquet

(7) Driving to Minot with CG

(8) Finally giving KG her Christmas gift.

(9) Texting with my favorite

(10) A Vox from TM

(11) Technology so I can be a part of a friends book launch party at the Festival of Faith and Writers.

(12) Thin Mint brownies

(13) A gorgeous Spring day

(14) Annie F Down’s podcast with Tauren Wells.

(15) A great walk on a beautiful Spring day.

(16) Watching the ACM awards and getting to hear some classic songs from 25 years ago.

(17) A mini PLN

Who is the Other?

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “other.” We would love to have you join us.

Spring on the farm is a holy time as new life springs forth. There were so many times I stood on one side of the fence while baby calves were being born on the other side of the fence. Sometimes I’d stick a baby bottle through the slats to feed a calf or we’d have to crawl over to the other side.

Have you ever wondered what happens on the other side of the houses you walk by or drive by each day? Is it a lonely single woman like me? Or is it an elderly couple? Or is it a family gathered around a hospice bed saying goodbye? Or is it a new infant keeping new parents up at all hours of the night? Or a poor individual working to meet ends meet?

Who is that other? But the reality is we aren’t so different after all. We are all beloved children of God. God gave his son for us; for the others in our midst.

And of course I couldn’t not share this too!

Sunday Blessings 209

(1) A fantastic Easter Monday!!

(2) Tax return money!!

(3) Cinnamon Taffy

(4) Supper with KD and her family.

(5) Winning a Madison skirt as part of a live sale.

(6) Generous people reimbursing me for my train ticket to my friends funeral.

(7) Texting with my faves

(8) The musical Rent

(9) A beautiful nap on my day off

(10) A fun relaxing day off

(11) A PLN!!

(12) Lots of compliments on my sermon

(13) Jelly beans.

(14) Another sweet gift from KD and RD

(15) Many compliments on my sermon today. Thanks for showing up Holy Spirit!

Release Yourself

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “release” We would love to have you join us.

Nailed to a tree
A crown of thorns
upon his head.

Voices yelling out
“If you are the Messiah
Release yourself.”

Haunting silence.

Jesus cries out
“Father, forgive them
For they know not
What they are doing.”

Mary, his mother
looking on.

He breathes his last.

Three days later
The women arrive
at the tomb
and find it empty.

Where is Jesus’ body?

He is not here.

Jesus has overcome
Death and the grave.
Jesus is risen!

In the resurrection,
Jesus reminds us of
God’s love
For us.

Let’s Do Better!

Yesterday, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a Facebook post that really really bothered me. The post came from what looked like a television weather source somewhere and read the words “Missing Person: Police are searching for mother nature. She is bi-polar and believed to be off her meds.” The first time I saw this post, my skin began to crawl and I couldn’t shake how awful this post is.

You see, I know all too well the realities of living with mental illness in my family. I am the oldest daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness. Our mom had a nervous breakdown right after my little sister was born. So I haven’t known different. I would say at least once a year, my mom would end up in the hospital due to this illness. I have seen my mom at her highest highs and her lowest lows, yet she is one of the most faith filled woman that I know.

And our story is not the only story of people living with the realities of mental illness. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year. (For more facts, look at these statistics!) In other words, mental illness is a reality for far too many people in this world. And when the world gets flippant about posting things like this post on Facebook, we only make it worse.

Mental illness is not something to poke fun at. People who live with this illness are beautiful beloved children of God. They are constantly trying to figure out how to live with their illnesses–what medications work for them etc. When we make it a joke, I believe we make it even harder for them to live in this world.

Friends, I believe we can and should do better!

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For more information about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) social statement on Mental Illness, click HERE!

I am linking up with Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories.

Sunday Blessings 207 and 208

(1) So much love from friends and family.

(2) Free ice cream day at DQ

(3) Running into BP while at the ARC to vote.

(4) Words!!

(5) A parishioner bringing me a new nativity for my collection.

(6) Chatting with a youth as she waited to be picked up.

(7) A phone call from JL

(8) Succeeding at putting a smile on friends faces.

(9) A sweet note from a friend. Thanks CZ!

(10) A yummy yummy Blue Apron meal.

(11) A short lived snow storm

(12) Halo Top Black Cherry ice cream

(13) A great Palm Sunday

(14) A hug from Z

(15) The written word

(16) Finishing A Place to Land. So good KM!!

(17) Hanging with KD and her family

(18) A short PLN

(19) Texting with my faves!

(20) A nice visit with a parishioner

(21) Awesome Maundy Thursday worship.

(22) A little Easter treat left in my office

(23) A hs classmate driving to Williston to hear me preach. Thanks HB!

(24) Awesome youth fundraiser despite the crummy weather.

(25) Papa John’s pizza and pizza delivery workers who have to work on Easter.

(26) A beautiful PLN

(27) Carlos Creek peach wine

(28) Resurrection promises!!

Jesus Didn’t Settle!

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “settle” We would love to have you join us.

It’s the day of grief; Good Friday. (But really what’s so good about today?) It is the day that Jesus is turned over to the Roman officials. It is the day Jesus says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” It is the day Jesus breathes his last.

Friends, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be here. There has been so much brokenness and sadness and grief along this Lenten journey. Yet that is exactly why I; why we need to be here. We need to stand at the foot of the cross watching as Jesus gives our life for ours.

We need to stand here mourning, letting the salty tears fall from our eyes. Salty tears that we can taste and see and feel along our faces. Salty tears that remind us of who and whose we are; beautiful beloved children of God, called and claimed by God.

The truth is we may know the end of this story, but we can’t have Easter without journeying through Goood Friday. For three days, we must stand at the foot of the cross, waiting and watching as our Lord is crucified. Easter will come, but not before we grieve and find ourselves trembling at the foot of the cross.

“Where, you there when they crucified our Lord? Where, you there when they laid him in the tomb? Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.”

I need to be here today, at the foot of the cross. Because Jesus didn’t settle for me; for us. He gave his life for us and knew that God would have the last word. Death would not have the final word, God would!

The Image I Will Carry With Me

Egg salad sandwiches, funeral potatoes, scalloped potatoes and ham! These are just a few of the spread that we sometimes see; depending on the culture at a luncheon after a funeral. It is also often the foods that are sent home with the family members of the deceased. As a young child, I didn’t have much experience with death. My maternal grandfather died when I was in college (August 2004) and my maternal grandmother died in February of 2008.

As I have grown older, I have seen more and more death. Yet too many of these deaths have come before their time. A friend who was taken by cancer. Another friend who died in his sleep after, more than likely, of a massive heartache. Another teacher/mentor/friend taken by cancer. And another professor/friend who finally succumbed to death after living a good life.

Death is a part of the journey of life. It is all around us which is why the words we hear on Ash Wednesday are so powerful. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” I will admit that as those ashes are placed on my head or as I place them on the heads of those near and dear to me, I have a hard time imagining that death might take them; whether by a freak accident, by cancer or another illness, or however their lives might end.

This week, we journey to the cross experiencing Jesus’ own crucifixion and death. I find myself wanting to grieve along with all of God’s people. I want to indulge in funeral food. I want to cry tears of grief and mourning. And in all honesty, I want to remember what this week is truly about; what Christ did for each and every one of us.

“For God so loved the world, God gave God’s only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. God did not send God’s Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might have life through him.” (John 3:16)

Although even in our grief, these moments of joyous celebration are now tinged with sadness because those we love who have passed away are no longer with us. Yet Easter morning still comes! Jesus is still resurrected from the grave, but he also bears the scars of the cross. We too bear the scars of grief and loss in our own lives and celebrate that ultimately death does not have the final word. Yet sometimes that is hard to see when death looks like winning. But that is the beauty of the theology of the cross.  Knowing that, I can’t help but think and reflect on these profound words from Clarence W. Hall “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.”

In other words, God ultimately wins. God is waiting to welcome each of us with arms wide open and declare “Well done good and faithful servants.” God is a God of hope who continually walks with us. And I will forever cling to that promise because I have seen it with my own eyes opened. As one of my seminary professors shared, our friend Ben’s funeral was one of the holiest moments of his life. I wholeheartedly agree.

Coming to the empty tomb, the image of hope and holiness and the promise of resurrection hope that I will carry with me to that empty tomb is the image of 80 plus of my friends/colleagues along with Ben’s wife Mara and daughter Elizabeth standing around Ben’s urn; arms linked with the person in front of us or beside us. It is the image that I will carry with me when the Lenten journey seems so very long. It is the image that I will lift up when I lose someone else dear to me. It is the image that will help me triumphantly declare “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Allelulia!”

It is the image of hope that reminds me again and again of who and whose we are. Jesus walks with us and promises to never leave us or forsake us. I believe that now more than ever. For 80 plus, a tangible cloud of witnesses will journey together and share stories of who this beloved child of God is with his daughter. But also a cloud of witnesses that will continually believe in the power of the resurrection not just today but every day of our lives on this earth.

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart, and Kristin and Porch Stories.

   

Our Heavenly Home (A Review on A Place to Land by Kate Motaung)

“And we will come back home; And we will come back home; Home, again! And we will come back home; And we will come back home; Home, again! And we will come back home; And we will come back home; Home, again!”–From Now On Lyrics from the Greatest Showman soundtrack (produced by Greg Wells, Alex Lacamoire, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)

Just two weeks ago, I found myself traveling on a train returning home after our friend Ben’s funeral. My friend Bryant shared a story that resonated with me. On their way back from the funeral, their three children were in the backseat on their electronic devices. Bryant and his wife L were listening to music as they reflected on the day. All of a sudden, from the backseat, all three of their kids piped up and belted out the above words from this song from the Greatest Showman. I can just picture these three bright eyed children gleefully and joyfully singing out these words. A beautiful reminder of what we are given to share in this life.

Before I left for that trip, I began reading my friend Kate’s book “A Place to Land.” The book is the story of Kate’s journey with her mom’s cancer while living on another continent. It is also the story of being torn between the home she grew up in and her new home in a new place. It is a journey that pulls the reader along through all of its ups and downs, twists and turns.

Kate’s words were also a gift to me in the midst of my own grieving. Losing a friend or anyone we love is never easy. But it is especially hard when they leave us way too early. Kate’s grace-filled words remind me that Ben was now reunited with our heavenly king and was now in his eternal home. A place we all will get to go to eventually too.

“Every day I’m only one step closer to eternity (A Place to Land; Kate Motaung).”

Often when I find a book that speaks to me, I find that it is hard for me to escape the words on the page. I sink in and want to journey along with the writer. A Place to Land did that for me! And I believe it will do it for so many of us. The journey of grief is one that most of us are not strangers to in our own lives. It helped to know that others had been on the cancer journey too. In fact, we are part of a beautiful cloud of witnesses scattered across time and space.

This beautiful cloud of witnesses is claimed as God’s beloved children through the waters of Baptism. In both life and death, God calls each and every one of us by name and calls us beloved! Beloved children of God who have a home waiting for them beyond their earthly home.

“Home is more than just a place. It is a promise (A Place to Land).”

This book is Kate’s families story. It is a story that pulls us all back to our heavenly home. A heavenly home that beckons and calls us back. And when we trust in that promise, we know that our homes here on earth are only for now and we can triumphantly declare “And we will come back home.” For God is waiting to welcome us to our heavenly home!

I am linking up with Holly and the Ra Ra linkup and Jennifer and Tell His Story!